Chateau D'If, France

Despite the wishes of the people of Marseille, Chateau D’If was constructed on the Frioul Archipelago between 1524 and 1531 on the instructions of Francois I. Marseille was by treaty allowed to provide its own defences and the people were not happy with what they considered interference with their town. This truculence would later lead Louis XIV to build Fort St. Nicholas and Fort St. Jean in the harbour of Marseille.

The Chateau never saw military action. Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, considered an attack on Marseille in 1531 but abandoned the plan. Whether this was because he feared the Chateau is unclear.

The famous architect Vauban visited D’If in 1701 and was very derogatory saying “All the buildings, very crudely done, are ill made”.

So the Chateau, in its Alcatraz-like island setting, inevitably became a prison. More than 3,500 Huguenots were incarcerated here and during the French Revolution the Chateau became one of the most feared in France, only perhaps eclipsed by the Bastille and Devil’s Island.

In 1844 The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas was published to great acclaim. He made extensive use of the Chateau D’If where the Count was imprisoned and from which he escaped – in truth no one ever escaped from D’If. However, the association has become a strong one and today the Chateau trades strongly on its Dumas connections.

Today, the Chateau is open to the public and accessible by boat from Marseille. A visit is an essential part of any trip to Marseille and even if the buildings are “crudely done and ill made” Chateau D’If is an atmospheric and exciting place to wash up for an afternoon.

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